Moving to a different country (or city, for that matter) requires a bit of adapting: to local peculiarities, culture, customs, traditions… but also to seemingly small and insignificant things like the omnipresent white residue on all faucets and appliances and the fact that your hair inexplicably turned into a dry, stubborn mess that looks more like a bird’s nest than the soft, shiny waves you used to have. At least that’s what I found myself with (minus the previously shiny waves, my hair has always been a bit of a mess!). And the reason? Simple. The water in Copenhagen is extremely hard, as the map below nicely shows - yellow is very soft, pink is very hard.
What is hard water?
Hard water simply has a high concentration of minerals. Water hardness can vary regionally (see map!) and is dependent on factors like the water source and the geological makeup of the area.
What are the effects of hard water?
As described, hard water can lead to limescale buildup, which is most easily visible as the white hard residue on appliances, faucets and dark tiles. It can also build up in pipes, for example in your washing machine or dishwasher. Some people experience dry skin or dry hair and scalp. This is mainly because the water will leave behind some mineral residue in your hair, which makes it all dry and frizzy. It is generally not considered dangerous or unhealthy to drink hard water.
What can I do against hard water?
For cleaning purposes, there are quite a few special cleaners you can buy against “kalk”, as it is called in Danish. Some of these work better than others, I find this one works alright. I would recommend that you buy special tabs for your dishwasher and washing machines, which will help keep the pipes clear from limescale buildup (like this one). A really great household remedy is - vinegar! I have successfully used vinegar to remove limescale from kitchen appliances, such as an electric water kettle, or the water tank of my Nespresso machine. Use a couple of spoonfuls of vinegar mixed with water for best results. Our showerhead sometimes gets clogged by limescale, so I let it soak overnight in a vinegar-water-mix, and it is as new the next day.
Some people also recommend vinegar rinses for your hair and skin. I’ve tried a vinegar rinse for my hair once, and apart from the fact that - of course - I poured it in my eye and my hair smelled like a greek salad, I didn’t actually see a great effect. To be fair, the smell vanishes once the hair is dry, but until then it’s pretty scary! I’ve also read about using lemon juice or just plain bottled water for rinses, but for now I’m sticking with a hair mask that I apply for a couple of minutes after every wash.
Finally, if you are really desperate, you can also buy water softeners that can be attached directly to your shower head.
How are you dealing with the hard water in Copenhagen? Do you have any special tips and tricks?